AotD Erik Haagensen (Oct. 26 2014)


Hello and welcome to another edition of Artist of the Day! Today's artist is Erik Haagensen, one of our local clay sculptors. In this post we'll explore his artistic process, how elements of his biography contribute to his whimsical style, and the current presence of his artwork in the Local Clay exhibit running from October 7th - November 9th 2014. As always, feel free to stop by the FRANK and view these exceptional works in person. Let's begin with some biographical details.

About the Artist

Mr. Haagensen was kind enough to send the FRANK a biographical statement. This statement is full of information about why he chose to pursue clay sculpting and what influences his works in general. To help us digest all of the information, I have condensed the paragraphs into a bulleted list that should further our understanding of the life and art of this talented sculptor.

  • Erik Haagensen's work was not limited to clay to start out; it included books of poetry, small-scale metal sculpture, photocopy art, outdoor sculptural installations, radio broadcast performances, handmade books, collage, digital art, and photography.   
  • Mr. Haagensen graduated from a liberal arts university where he studied theology, philosophy, psychology and business.
  •  For most of the 1990’s, Haagensen had an exhilarating day job in the fascinating world of enterprise software applications.  At the end of work each day, he would go home and make art. 
  • In 2001, Haagensen's principal focus shifted to clay, and he began to chase the dream of creating a large community art studio dedicated to clay. He and his significant other founded MudFire Clayworks in Atlanta, where for over ten years they shared space with over 100 artists and students at a time, taught every day, produced monthly gallery exhibits, and hosted artists from around the world for workshops.
  • In 2013, they tired of the big city and sold the studio to a group of artist friends. They bought a farm in Appalachia and headed to the hills to try their hands at organic farming while making pots full-time.

About the Process

In his correspondence with the FRANK, Erik Haagensen shared details about his artistic process which are truly fascinating. When you look at his works, I think it is clear to those familiar with pottery that the skill and craftsmanship behind each piece is phenomenal. The process notes shared by this artist are therefore unsurprisingly unique to the artist and nuanced:

"The pottery is made of earthenware clay that is fired three times. Most pieces are thrown on the wheel though I occasionally do a little handbuilding.

The pieces are made with red earthenware clay that is then painted with a white slip (liquid clay) and layers of brightly colored underglazes. The work is then dried and bisque fired to Cone 06. After bisque, they are glazed with a clear, stable, non-toxic glaze that yields occasional antiquey crackles. The glazed ware is then fired in oxidation to Cone 04. Once the glaze has been fired on, I add the line drawings. I draw all my drawings with pencil and paper, then using some technomagic, create ceramic overglaze transfers from my original drawings. The work then goes back into kiln, fired in oxidation to melt the overglaze drawings into the glaze. It is possible to keep doing additional decoration and refiring.

There are several things I like about this approach to surface. The earthenware, slip, and underglazes provide a delightfully variegated canvas, full of old-timey pottery goodness, evidence of the hand, unique brush strokes, graduated color, happenstance, and fine crazing. Yet the character of the line is that of a contemporary pen-and-ink drawing, the crisp printed image of a modern comic book. I really enjoy the odd mix of old-timey goodness and sharp contemporary design." -- Erik H.

Local Clay

When asked about the current presence of his pieces in our exhibit Local Clay, Haagensen was more than receptive to sharing his vision. He provided the following explanation:

"The pots I recently shipped to FRANK for the exhibit are special to me because I started working on those... early in the summer. This was one year after moving to the mountains to give up teaching & curating in Atlanta and to make work full-time. I took some time out of the clay studio to work on some new illustrations and patterns of illustrations at my drawing table. This was really the first attempt at covering pots in patterned illustrations since I switched to earthenware, and I am excited [about] how the first pots turned out. The new illustrations of instrument players have also been very well received, and I've already started drawing the dancers that obviously must follow them!"

We are very excited to see the new illustrations Haagensen mentions at the end there!  As always, please visit the FRANK any time before November 9th to see this artist's pottery on display at the gallery.

Learn more...

To learn more about this artist and to read his updates, please visit his web site, Below are some recent pictures (Summer 2014) including some WIP shots of pots currently on display at FRANK. (Click on an image to enlarge it!)

"During the summer we also had our first vegetable garden and started restoring our pastures, which were important first steps in breathing life into the old farm that we bought and moved to in Greeneville, TN. It was a busy, exhausting summer, but we have loads of pottery and fresh pickles to show for it!"